Today on The Porch I am hosting my good friend, writer and liturgist, Aaron Niequist. His new book, The Eternal Current: How a Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning, is set to release next week, and I cannot recommend it enough. Here is a little bit about why Aaron, a long time evangelical, wrote a book about finding God in ancient spiritual practices:
“For a long time, all the tension and division surrounding the modern Church left me feeling spiritually empty. I kept thinking, “God must have a grander vision for worship and community than what we’re settling for.” This sparked a journey that led me back to some of the Church’s ancient practices many of us have forgotten, ones that unified much more than divided. Could it be that the “practice-based” faith of the past is actually the key to unlocking the Church’s future? By adopting some of these spiritual practices, I’m convinced we can all learn to swim again with a renewed sense of peace, unity, and divine purpose.”
Years ago, I like Aaron, found myself asking similar questions and being drawn to the beauty and rootedness of liturgy and ancient spiritual practices, which is why, when he began this work, I began to pester him about the things I was learning as a new Episcopalian. Thankfully he took my pestering in stride and even invited me to be a part of a few of his projects – allowing me to worship and minister at the beautiful intersection of what was best about my evangelical past and my liturgical present. Now it is my turn to host Aaron, sharing an excerpt from his new book, and I could not be more proud. Below you will find a sample from this wonderful work – a sample that I hope will lead you to go exploring, looking for where your sweet spot is in the eternal current of God’s presence might be:
Understand Where God Already Is
–an excerpt from the new book, The Eternal Current, by Aaron Niequist-
The River flows eternally and we are constantly near it.
Wherever we are, God is already there.
God is not a localized Being whom we have to convince to move from far to close. God is here. Therefore, I would suggest that swimming with the Eternal Current invites us to retire a number of common phrases from our Christian vocabulary. Let’s reconsider using two of them: “And then God showed up” and “God, we invite you here today.”
I know phrases such as these are well-intentioned. But when we insert “And then God showed up” as we tell our stories, we say something confusing about God. The same is true when we pray, “God, we invite you here.” Where do we think God is? If we claim that God “showed up,” are we saying that God was absent prior to that moment? If we beg God to “fill this place today” or to “be with us as we drive,” are we suggesting that God would be absent otherwise? Where in the world do we think God is?
The Scriptures are clear about God’s location.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. (Psalm 139:7–8)Saint Paul taught that God “is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:27–28).
Jesus declared, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
This theme continues throughout the Scriptures and the history of God’s people.
Where is God? God is here. Always. Everywhere.
Some scholars believe that a more accurate translation of “Our Father, who art in heaven” is “Our Father, in the heavens.” In other words, “Our Father, who fills the atmosphere—every molecule from the farthest solar system to the inside of my lungs.” Our Father, who already floods this place and fills the atmosphere. Or in pastor and author John Ortberg’s beautiful phrase, “Our Father who is closer than the air I breathe.”
Father Richard Rohr has built on this idea in his brilliant book Everything Belongs.
My starting point is that we’re already there. We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. As we take another it means that God is choosing us now and now and now.”
The invitation on Sunday morning is the same invitation on Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon: to become present to the God who is already fully present to us.
Through spiritual practices, loving one another, and profound humility, we can cultivate eyes to see what is already happening. Likewise, our hearts begin to soften and remain increasingly open to the God who always is open to us and everyone else. Or as Jesus said, “Come to me.… Work with me.… Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28–30, msg).
Eyes to See God’s Work of Grace
If we are already fully submerged in the presence of God and the reality of the kingdom, then every moment becomes an opportunity to open our eyes and partner with God’s present work of grace. While putting our kids to bed, we can partner with God’s work in our kids, or we can miss out. When we get into a fender bender, we can partner with God’s work in the person who wasn’t paying attention and hit our car, or we can miss out. When our boss overlooks or mistreats us, we can partner with God’s work in and through the situation, or we can miss out. Every moment offers an opportunity to align with God’s immersive presence and get swept up in God’s healing activities in our lives and the life of the world. Every moment beckons us to swim.
But how do we cultivate eyes to see the Current? How do we become aware of what has been true all along?
I would suggest that a practice-based faith, in the way of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, offers a path into God’s Eternal Current. We can’t make the river flow, but these simple practices of grace help get us into the water.
And everyone is invited.
To learn more about The Eternal Current, and Aaron’s work as a liturgist and writer, visit https://www.aaronniequist.com/.